Tonawanda News — Max wasn’t so sure about this whole camera thing.
The 3-year-old German shepherd paced the deck at Canine Splash, whining softly and looking toward his owners as photographer Seth Casteel waited in the water below him, patiently calling encouragement. Finally, he deigned to walk down the ramp and plunge his face into the water after a tennis ball, keeping a wary eye on this stranger in his favorite place.
Eventually, Casteel’s coaxing and encouragement — and adroit concealment of the camera — paid off. By the end of his photo shoot, Max was enthusiastically launching himself into the water after the tennis ball, praised and reassured by photographer and owners both.
Anyone who’s seen underwater portraits of dogs on social media has probably seen Casteel’s work. Since a series of his underwater canine photos was posted on Reddit last Feb. 9, the award-winning photographer has found himself thrust into overnight fame, parlayed into a New York Times bestselling book (”Underwater Dogs”), a calendar, a book tour and exhibits in New York City and elsewhere. His work has been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times and Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.
Casteel’s underwater photographs capture dogs both fierce and comical, single-mindedly intent on pursuit of a tennis ball or wide-eyed with quizzical canine expressions. In a photo shoot arranged by the owners of Canine Splash, he spent this weekend at the business on Vulcan Street on the Town of Tonawanda/Buffalo border, photographing clients’ dogs as they plunged into the facility’s larger pool, paddled after toys or dipped their faces in after a tennis ball he controlled just below the surface.
“He’s got really good energy with the dogs,” said Canine Splash co-owner Jill Bernstein. “He’s kind of reading the signs, if they need calmer energy or more excitement.”